The Chinese Have Figured Out How to 3D Print Ammunition Propellant

3d printed gunpowder propellant

Courtesy Xi’an Modern Chemistry Research Institute and

By Ivan the Troll

Chinese researchers from the Xi’an Modern Chemistry Research Institute have found a technique that couples high explosives with SLA (resin) 3D printing to accelerate a projectile to considerable velocities…as high as 1043 m/s. This is the first instance I am aware of where 3D printing has been used to process a stand-in for propellant in a firearm-related application.

In the research paper released by the Institute (reported by, they explain how they used filler resin, RDX (a high explosive), as well as a plasticizer that would give the printed parts more suitable mechanical properties. This plasticizer itself is also considered an energetic material, meaning it would explode/combust with the RDX.

Their projectile was a 200g ball (30mm bore diameter)…that’s nearly 3100 grains. At 1043 m/s (roughly 3400 fps), that’s about five times more muzzle energy than a .50 BMG round.

China 3d printed gunpowder ammunition propellant

Courtesy Xi’an Modern Chemistry Research Institute and

The most interesting thing about this test is that the Institute was able to harness a high explosive in place of a more conventional propellant (such as smokeless gunpowder). Unfortunately, their use of RDX means this isn’t some breakthrough in DIY firearms – I can’t think of many instances where you would be able to obtain RDX, but not gunpowder.

The level of muzzle energy demonstrated here is something beyond small arms, more relevant to artillery and armored fighting vehicles, at least as this point in the testing. Demonstrations of the process on a smaller scale would be interesting to see, though I imagine nobody is itching to put an RDX-powered rifle in their shoulder anytime soon.

This process has applications in future weapons system for large-scale/military applications. The advantage of being able to 3D-print the explosive/propellant cores allows the design to be custom tailored for fluid flow and ideal burn rates. This can allow for more consistency, one cartridge to the next (potential XLR or indirect fire application), and more power per case area (think +p+ artillery shells).

For more information, the research paper by the Institute is available here.


 Ivan the Troll is the head of PR for Deterrence Dispensed.


  1. avatar Neil says:

    A very practical tech.
    Hopefully the US and UK have this in a dark lab.

    1. avatar neiowa says:

      Who the hell do you think the chicoms stole it from? Hasn’t been an original idea out of China since toilet paper (other than various diseases).

      1. avatar Saran Wrappe says:


        1. avatar Jeremy B. says:

          To bad it’s a false claims and probably racist.

        2. avatar Big E says:

          Insert eyeroll here > < why is the truth racist? The Chicoms (like all communists regardless of race) steal EVERYTHING. If that bothers you take it up with them.

        3. avatar Montana Actual says:


          So… not really.

        4. avatar jean says:

          “False claims”…….?!?! Years of proven Chinese intellectual property theft beg to differ….

      2. avatar maga says:

        typical trumptard speaking
        completely baseless bs
        make america great again
        oh yeah

      3. avatar KenW says:

        Contrary to popular believe the U.S.A. does not have a monopoly on inventing stuff.
        It’s not appearing much in the news but Trump might have bitten off more than he can chew.
        It seems the Chinese company Huawei possess the most next-generation 5G patents.
        They hold 56,492 active patents on telecommunications, networking and other high-tech inventions worldwide And numerous patents here in the U.S.
        And are starting to gear up to use them to smack down Verizon and other U.S. companies who are violating their patents. Verizon is claiming most of Huawei’s patents are for old outdated or minor tech.
        Trump probably can have the U.S. patent office invalidate them here.
        Only problem then will be Huawei can get U.S. tech violating their patents banned worldwide.
        Verizon and other U.S. companies claims will be subject to not as friendly eyes and Huawei patents probably are valid, or will be seen as valid.
        So we might no longer be able to sell most of our telecommunications equipment outside the U.S.
        Which would tank quite a few companies.
        It doesn’t matter if Huawei collapses , the State will just pick up the pieces and use them as a club against us.
        And no I am not Pro China, just noticed what is slowly happening.

        Remember Lenin’s saying ‘The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.’ ?

        1. avatar Texican says:

          Guess the U.S. will have to be more careful when we invent and roll out 6G!

        2. avatar J. Smith says:

          We are already building 6G, the 5g network is just the frame for it. These chicom tech companies are counterintelligence nightmare for the US, that is why POTUS banned them and convinced our Five eyes partners to do the same as it would put their Five eyes status at jeopardy if they used them as they are a great national security risk. But, keep talking about stuff you have no clue about. I got it you want to claim orange man bad so you can feel righteous. How about when you do not know what you are talking about you shut the hell up.

        3. avatar Wood says:

          “How about when you do not know what you are talking about you shut the hell up.”

          If everyone did that the internet would be a desolately quiet place.

        4. avatar Hi-Oh! says:

          Wrong. We all saw Men In Black. They have at least the patent on the microwave.

        5. avatar KenW says:

          Well J Smith, when you you going to patent that read between the lines device looking for Anti Trump stuff you used on my post? Like I said their patents will be looked at by eyes who may not be friendly to the U.S.
          Perhaps you should drop infowars for awhile and look around.

        6. avatar Name Name says:

          Trump is a moron, but it would take an even bigger fool to use Chinese tech for anything remotely sensitive.

          Their companies are completely intertwined with their government, and their government will use any sleazy tactic or dirty trick it takes to get ahead. Any tech from China is suspect for collecting intelligence on its user or having embedded malware. After the fall of the Soviet Union, they are the closest thing to evil you will find in the modern world.

        7. avatar Wood says:

          All the tech companies are data mining bastards.

        8. avatar KenW says:

          I do not agree that Trump is a moron Name Name, but I do agree that we Americans are fools for allowing so much Chinese and other counties not friendly to the U.S. manufactured devices and electronics into our lives. From the laptops we use to our cellphones to the humble smart lightbulbs almost everything we use is a blackbox since it is difficult to tell what other capabilities might be in them. No need to sneak the capabilities into the microprocessors or CPU’s the Trojan device could be almost any chip or even disguised as a passive device.
          So I agree with the President that we need to bring all electronics and computer manufacturing back into the U.S or countries friendly to us like Canada.
          It looks like the Chinese redid Lenin’s saying into “The Americans will buy from us the rope we use to hang them.”

        9. avatar LarryinTX says:

          China does not honor anyone’s copyrights, patents, or other intellectual properties, why would anybody honor theirs?

    2. avatar BOBO says:

      In most cases if china has it ….they stole the “new” tech from a US lab they are spying on

      The chinese PLA has more agents/spys in california alone than the FBI has agents US wide…then add more they call “students” going to college

  2. avatar jwm says:

    You can’t stop the signal, Mal.

    1. avatar Adub says:

      But you can’t get RDX at every corner drugstore. It’s not plutonium…

      1. avatar Wood says:

        But it’s easier to buy than books!

  3. avatar Wally1 says:

    And now for a lighter note: SCOTUS Ginsberg’s cancer has returned. She is probably on her way out. Hopefully Trump will be around to submit another Judge.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      Umm, not. She had a stent in her gallbladder that got blocked, was treated endoscopically to clear it, and was sent home on Tuesday.

      1. avatar FB says:

        This news just came out today. Ginsberg’s cancer has returned.

        1. avatar Mad Max says:

          If you or I are stricken by cancer, we really need to know who her cancer doctor is.

        2. avatar 9x39 says:

          Source I read this a.m. (BBC) said she’s responding well to chemo, more’s the pity.

          On topic:

          Cool invention, but it’s not as though this gonna trickle down to us mere peon’s, because RDX. Still, much <3 Ivan.

    2. avatar Cale15 says:

      Cause trump is soooo pro 2A

      1. avatar jwm says:

        You would rather have biden picking rbg’s replacement? You guys are quick to be anti Trump. How about suggesting a viable alternative that has a real chance against the left.

        1. avatar RayS says:

          I know a lot of people here think Trump caved on the bump stock thing. Heres my take – he’s a wheeler-dealer and offered up that ban thinking the courts would overturn it. Thinking he’s apeased the left and the right still has their stocks. Could be wrong, just a thought.
          But, yea, Trump still way better than Biden.

        2. avatar guy says:

          Ted nugent?

    3. avatar Oli says:

      You are a rude pos. FYI the past three supreme court decisions of a plural conservative court went againts your Ubermoron and his xtian mob. You obviously had enough edumatation when homeschooled to know that the SC rules supreme. The reps sided with Ginsburg against inhuman and rude people like you. That should tell you a little bit about yourself. Only a little bit – because thats all you are. As for China. They do what we do. Yet we do everything wrong 10x and then do the same thing again. You are the product. Otherwise we steal a lot of stuff and damage their research abilities. As for me – time to replace the population in the brain drainded aera you live with chinese and muslim immigrants with an average IQ of 120 instead of the IQ82. Its the patriotic thing to do.

      1. avatar Yellow Devil says:

        There seem to be alot of ChiCom lovers out tonight. Beijing must be amping up their online trolls.

      2. avatar Someone says:

        At least it is honest about its goals: Replacement of domestic population with Chinese communists and muslim head cutters. I somehow doubt they will measure the IQ of either ones though.
        Just wait how surprised it will be when these highly intelligent followers of prophet start tossing LGBTQXYZ off roofs in accordance with the sharia.

  4. avatar RGP says:

    How about some 3D large pistol primers?

    1. avatar Neil says:

      Oh, you are onto something very practical.

  5. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    Code is free speech. But the “gun community” has a very poor record of supporting new 21st century firearms technology.

    1. avatar Wood says:

      Only because the dems try to latch onto any new tech that promises some level of control to use as a way to ban current firearms tech. I couldn’t care less about “smart” guns. I won’t buy them, but others feel free.

  6. avatar former water walker says:

    Cool😎…the Chinamen DID invent gunpowder so we’re told. One wonders what other tech they’ve stol er procured?

  7. avatar DietzNuts says:

    I think they will have to rethink what kind of barrel to shoot it out of, may blow up or just tear the Hell out of the rifling.

  8. avatar James W Crawford says:

    I for one would be reluctant to use RDX explosive based “propellant.”. Explosives such as RDX are profoundly different than normal firearms and artillery propellants because the pressure exponent for the linear deflagration rate is greater than one. They are analogous to Black powder. As a result, there is no inherent equilibrium pressure dictated by the projectile mass and the surface area of the propellant grains.

    This 3D printing technology might make it possible to shape the explosive grains with enough precision that the pressure curve is predictable. However; I would be reluctant to bet my life on it. It would be far safer to apply this technology to conventional propellants. Since the energy density is about the same, there is no good reason to risk using explosives.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:


      Thank you for pointing this out. There’s a huge difference between an explosive and a propellant. And if someone didn’t know before they pulled the trigger, they might afterwards,

      1. avatar Geoff &quot;Ammo. LOTS of ammo...&quot; PR says:

        This is nothing new anyways. Modern smokeless ‘powder’ is manufactured by extruding it through a die and sliced off by length. That’s ‘3-D Printing’. This clip shows the ‘die’ at about 10 seconds in :

        (The pic for the clip below are the bottle caps for packaging)

  9. avatar J.B. says:

    Sheesh, the wear and tear on a barrel would be something else. Anything rifled would get worn out pretty quickly, smoothbore applications would be better. Sure would like to see the data on pressures.

    1. avatar Tarzan says:

      What was the psi and what was the barrel made of that they are using for testing?

  10. avatar enuf says:

    The most important point to take from this story is that in some fashion the communists achieved this due to their skill at espionage against western nation military, industrial and university facilities. The level of espionage is intense, never stopping and employees many techniques. From a routine of collecting every scrap of openly published data to human and cyber covert theft of information.

    The Chinese Communists are our enemy. Not the common person but their government, their Party Members, their leaders, their military and their industrial base are all acting as enemies to Western Democracy, Western Capitalism and also acting against neighboring nations.

  11. avatar Saran Wrappe says:

    I would like to see this done with the shell as the propellent with a primer built into it. Or a brass/aluminum base with shell casing just propellent. Saves weight, brass, and the polar bears.

    1. avatar Geoff "Ammo. LOTS of ammo..." PR says:

      “I would like to see this done with the shell as the propellent with a primer built into it.”

      Google “Caseless Ammunition”…

      1. avatar LarryinTX says:

        A few decades back the US was working on a cannon for fighter aircraft which would use caseless ammo. Did anything ever come of that? Seems like F-15, -16, A-10, etc all used normal ammo, unless I missed something.

  12. avatar Juice says:

    In my limited knowledge of 3D printing techniques, what you get is either: one-off custom parts, rapid prototyping, or electronic distribution of the plans. In the case of 30mm cannon propellant, it doesn’t sound like any of these would be a practical benefit, so what does this development mean?

    Is it some kind of novel shape or material that you can’t work with in more conventional manufacturing techniques? I don’t really understand.

    1. avatar Tarzan says:

      Shape of gunpowder controls the burn rate and thus the pressure curve and that’s important on propellant design. If it’s consistent and repeatable, it’s limits can be learned.

      1. avatar Geoff "Ammo. LOTS of ammo..." PR says:

        That’s how it’s done already. This is nothing new. In the video above they show the die, it’s a ‘T’ shape that is extruded…

    2. avatar Someone says:

      I believe it’s still in stage of research, where 3D can help with finding the right size and distribution of explosive kernels in the filler.

  13. avatar Scobey says:

    At some point, someone will invent something that will immediately render all firearms useless. That will be interesting.

    1. avatar Wood says:


    2. avatar KenW says:

      I’m waiting for a rail gun that fires flechette rounds.
      By varying the magnetic field at the opening you could change the spread.
      Since it does not use explosive propellant its not a gun.
      So I could make one at home if I knew how,

    3. avatar LarryinTX says:


  14. avatar vaadu says:

    Could the sniper community make use of this with existing firearms?

  15. avatar Hankus says:

    So what you are trying to say is that the Chinese are inventing gunpowder 2.0?

  16. avatar Hankus says:

    RDX is a high order explosive. What I want to know is how reliably something like that can be modulated down to a point where it has a comprehensible burn rate? Detonation is never a friendly event.

  17. avatar Connor says:

    The other interesting thing about this tech, on the future small arms side, is it would allow you to design a caseless cartridge that could have various internal shapes/chambers to burn the propellant a specific way and at a specific rate to have the desired ballistics for a given projectile. I think this is what caseless ammunition has been waiting for to truly make it viable and practical, on any scale.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

button to share on facebook
button to tweet
button to share via email